MR claims fuel price hike to cover losses from concessions

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa claims the Government has been forced to increase fuel prices to find money to cover the losses it suffered from the concessions given for political reasons after the last Presidential and Parliament elections.

Rajapaksa said in a statement that following the recent increase in fuel prices, transport costs and the prices of goods and services have started rising.

He said that fishermen are up in arms against the sudden increase in the price of kerosene by more than double the earlier price and the creation of a coupon system to distribute subsidized kerosene.

“In the midst the agitation and unrest resulting from this fuel price increase, members of the Government have been trying to justify it by saying that fuel costs were higher during the Rajapaksa Government. Today the price of a barrel of crude oil is around 70 USD. When I assumed office as President back in November 2005, it was around USD 73. It reached the highest point of USD 160 in June 2008 and even as late as August 2014, the price was over USD 103. It was only in the last three months of 2014 that oil prices started declining and by the time the government changed in January 2015, it had gone down to USD 51 per barrel. From that point onwards, oil prices remained at a low level for three years. The prices kept declining and reached a low of USD 33 by February 2016. Thereafter oil prices increased slowly but even as late as October 2017, it was less than USD 55. It is only in the last few months that oil prices have steadily risen to reach the present level of USD 70,” Rajapaksa said.

He said that during the nine full years in which he ruled the country his Government never had the benefit of low oil prices. Rajapaksa said that the present price of USD 70 per barrel is quite low compared to the average price of crude oil during his Government.

“Despite the highest global crude oil prices in history during those years, we not only won the war against terrorism which many people thought was unwinnable, but also successfully concluded the biggest infrastructure building programme ever seen in this country since the colonial era. We were able to do all that while maintaining the fertilizer subsidy so as to shield farmers from the increasing prices of fertilizer. Despite high oil prices, my Government was able to maintain the highest growth rates in Sri Lanka’s history and the per capita GDP increased threefold during my tenure in power,” he said.

Rajapaksa says any government can give any concession they like to win elections but what usually acts as a restraint in this regard is the question as to how they are going to find the money to fulfill those commitments after winning.

He says the present Government thought only of winning the election – not about what happens afterwards. (Colombo Gazette)